The UK Pharma Country Manager

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The UK country managers of some of the biggest global pharma companies explain what it takes to manage in the UK market.

 

Erik Nordkamp, Pfizer

Erik Nordkamp, the Dutch national serving as managing director of Pfizer UK and the newly-appointed president of the ABPI, likens managing a UK affiliate to “being a managing director on stilts.”

[Managing a UK affiliate] is like being a managing director on stilts

Nordkamp elaborates, “Everything is on a bigger scale: influencing operations and complexity. And while it is an honor to lead the organization in this changing time and play an active role in the industry, resilience is much needed. In the UK, you have to deal with challenges and learn to prioritize under pressure.”

 

Read the full interview with Erik Nordkamp here


 

Haseeb Ahmed, Novartis

Haseeb Ahmed, country president of Novartis UK and vice president of the ABPI, has a shared history with Nordkamp, with both men having previously been assigned to positions in Greece. He foregrounds the importance of adaptability for those managing UK affiliates, noting that “This is a market where you need to be able to transform and perform at the same time. More than anywhere, I see this holding truth in the UK. Hence, it takes individuals that can master agility and organizations with the ability to pivot rapidly to succeed here.”

This is a market where you need to be able to transform and perform at the same time

Ahmed’s ability to lead his team to success in a difficult market environment has seemingly caught the eye of Novartis top brass. Speaking after a visit to the UK in July 2018, global CEO Vas Narasimhan exclaimed, “I’m proud of my colleagues in the UK, who are demonstrating a passion for delivering outstanding health innovation to UK patients, despite complex circumstances. This is underpinned by collaboration and strong partnerships with the National Health Service which I was inspired to learn more about.”

 

Read the full interview with Haseeb Ahmed here


 

Laurent Abuaf, AstraZeneca

With many never having worked outside of their home nation, is there a danger that UK country managers of large international pharma companies are too UK-centric and unaware of global developments?

The UK is known to have a tendency to be self-centric

Laurent Abuaf, the French national and country president of AstraZeneca certainly thinks so. He declares that, “The UK is known to have a tendency to be self-centric. My experience of working in other countries enables me to see things differently; to see opportunities and challenges you might miss by not having the element of comparison. For instance, the UK is one of the worst countries in Europe in cancer outcomes and respiratory deaths, but it has on the other hand made great progress in cardiovascular outcomes.”

 

Read the full interview with Laurent Abuaf here


 

Lars Bruening, Bayer

Lars Bruening of Bayer moved to the UK as CEO UK and Ireland in 2017, having previously held responsibility for global market access at the company’s headquarters in Berlin. On the task of becoming a country manager in a market as complex as the UK, Bruening exclaims, “It is challenging but also exciting at the same time. I have always followed roads on different geographic levels, both regional and global, in my career.”

It is challenging but also exciting at the same time

Bruening continues, “I see tremendous value for a manager to have those different perspectives. To me, it was a very logical move to join the UK, which is a thriving market and organization, with the added management challenge of Brexit.”

 

Read the full interview with Lars Bruening here


 

Hugo Fry, Sanofi

However, the impending exit of Britain from the EU – which looms over all aspects of the country’s life science industry – seems to have precipitated a wave of new appointees, as companies scramble to find the right personalities and skillsets to manage them through turbulent times. Sanofi’s Hugo Fry, himself only in position since 2017, posits, “I am part of the ABPI board, and we noticed there that there has been a huge turnover [of general managers] even since I arrived 15 months ago. I think some of it has to do with understanding that Brexit is going to change some things and you need a particular profile to be able to manage and lead through that.”

Brexit is going to change some things and you need a particular profile to be able to manage and lead through that

For Fry, the typical UK country manager of the future will be a long-term appointee, well-versed in the intricacies of the British market. He exclaims, “I have heard that there was a phase where the UK was very much a training ground for people on big upward trajectories, and the turnover became high, especially for American companies. Now people are coming back to the understanding that you need people for the long-term, because this market is complicated, it does require a lot of effort, and there is such a large corporate, external affairs function here because of the nature of the market. You need to build those relationships and commit to them longer term.”

 

Read the full interview with Hugo Fry here

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